Ruby Release Spotlight: Tamara Hogan & Taste Me


[DaryndaJones]: ready to chat?

[TamaraHogan]: wow, is it that time already? Cool! Coming in now…

[Admin]: <<TamaraHogan has entered Council_Net confidential chat…>>

[TamaraHogan]: hi, D!

[DaryndaJones]: Hey there! Everyone, I’d like to welcome and congratulate Ruby Sister and fellow paranormal writer Tamara Hogan for two reasons. First, well, she sold. WOOHOO! And second, because her new release TASTE ME is utterly fantastic! I found myself unable to put the book down, and when I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about Lukas and Scarlett. Their story is dark and sultry and oh-so sensuous.

So without further ado, I’d like to ask Tamara a few burning questions pertaining to TASTE ME and all things that go bump in the night.

Again, welcome, beautiful lady!

Tamara Hogan

[TamaraHogan]: Glad to be here!

[DaryndaJones]: I figured out pretty quickly why your publishing house decided on the name TASTE ME for this delectable literary fare. Lukas, our hero, is an incubus with a rather unusual talent. Could you explain how the title came about? What are its implications in the story?

[TamaraHogan]: When Sourcebooks acquired my manuscript, my editor Deb Werksman told me she was concerned that its original title, UNDERBELLY, just didn’t say “romance.” No problem; once you sign that contract, your manuscript kinda becomes community property, and turning it into a book takes the talent and skill of dozens of people whose names you’ll probably never learn. But the title that Sourcebooks’ editorial and marketing wizards ultimately came up with? TASTE ME. Wow. Um, it certainly says romance! After I got over the initial shock, I realized that the title was an absolutely perfect choice because a) yes, sexay, and b) it tied into a key aspect of the book’s plot: due to a genetic glitch, Lukas tastes emotion. Taste is the sense through which he experiences the world. To him, Scarlett tastes like ambrosia, like mandarin champagne effervescing on his tongue—but negative emotions, as you might imagine, taste pretty damn bad.

[DaryndaJones]: Can you tell us a little about our hero and heroine, Lukas and Scarlett, and their struggles throughout this riveting tale?

Taste Me

[TamaraHogan]: While Lukas may not have given Scarlett her first kiss, he was definitely her first lover–and as the tagline on the cover of the book says, “When your first lover’s a sex demon, it’s all downhill from there.” After spending a single, rock-my-world night together, Lukas, guilt-stricken, walked away without saying a word, leaving Scarlett wondering what she’d done wrong.  Years later, she’s never had a lover to match him, and she’s…pissed. Coming home burned out after a year on tour with her band, she’s determined to get some answers – and to move on with her life, either with him or without him. Lukas, for his part, knows she’s hell on his control, and for both their sakes, they can never be together. When an assailant addicted to sexual energy targets Council members and their families, Scarlett refuses to cancel her homecoming show. Lukas ends up as her reluctant bodyguard, never dreaming he might be the killer’s ultimate target.

[DaryndaJones]: I found myself hooked and drawn into Lukas and Scarlett’s story immediately. It is dark and sensual and takes place literally in the underbelly of the supernatural world. And it’s sensual. Did I already mention that? Holy moly, is it sensual.

[TamaraHogan]: Having just finished my second manuscript, one thing I’ve recognized is that I love writing sexual tension. Yeah, there are definitely love scenes in my books—some of them pretty damn spicy—but I actually think more of the sensuality comes from the build-up to the love scene rather than the love scene itself. I enjoy seeing how much sexual tension I can create without the characters even touching each other, using thoughts and physical reactions. One of the advantages of writing in deep third-person POV is that I have intimate access to that layer of the character. Consider the action/thought/reaction technique I use in the first scene Lukas and Scarlett share in TASTE ME. [Click here for excerpt]

[DaryndaJones]: *fans self* I loved that scene. Well, I loved pretty much all the scenes, but, yeah, that one was hot. I’ve had a hard time in the past with books that take different mythological creatures and throw them into one story, but in your book, it all just fits. You’ve written a story that draws from many corners of the mythological world and you do it seamlessly, in such a way as to be so utterly believable, I was certain such a world could exist. Can you give us some insight into the research you did for Lukas and Scarlett’s story?

[TamaraHogan]: Burning in my head during the months I spent building the world were two baseline thoughts: “Mythological creatures are real” and “Winners write history.” These thoughts led me to establish the ‘reality’ that these creatures actually wrote our known mythologies so they could better hide in plain sight—until humanity matured enough to learn that so-called “first contact” actually occurred quite a long time ago. In addition to revisiting classic mythology, I sought out religious texts depicting the incubi/succubi myth, one picture being that of a gorgeous winged succubus rising from the body of her lover/victim, having drawn his very essence from his body. As a person firmly grounded in the physical world, I had to find a biological reason why incubi and succubi do this—something other than “We’re evil, monstrous sex demons, grr, argh, fear, blah blah blah!!” I started playing around with the idea that incubi and succubi had to absorb emotional energy to survive. I further explored the emotional energy theme while researching the sirens, those mythic creatures whose alluring voices caused marauders’ ships to crash into the cliffs. It seemed reasonable to propose that sirens could manipulate and amplify emotional energy with their voices. This set-up also established a kick-ass conflict between Lukas and Scarlett: their very physiology puts them at odds, establishes a power struggle. What happens when you pair a control-freak incubus who has to absorb emotional energy for survival with a pissed off siren who amplifies emotional energy with her voice? **whoosh** Toss the re-imagined mythology with a little bit of Science Channel, SETI Institute, “CSI” and The National Enquirer, and you have the gist of The Underbelly Chronicles’ world.  😉

[DaryndaJones]: One of the things I found absolutely fascinating about this story is how you combined ancient myth with both modern and futuristic technology, so much so that it borders at times on science fiction. I happen to know you are somewhat of a technical guru. Did you incorporate such sophisticated technology with such primal, ancient beings consciously or did it seem to just fit your story?

[TamaraHogan]: This took some thought. Being their ancestors’ spaceship crashed in what would become Minnesota, in the dead of winter, over a thousand years ago—and that their ship was destroyed in the crash—very little of their extra-planetary technology survived. The crash survivors pretty much found themselves blasted back to the Stone Age from a tech perspective, reduced to evolving alongside humanity, on humanity’s timeline, utterly dependent upon the resources available to them here on Earth. In the book, I wanted to convey the impression that the Underbelly world was just slightly ahead of humanity from a technology perspective, that they’d developed some really whiz-bang stuff, but that the innovations had come more because of their ingenuity and intelligence than because they had a technical head start. That said, even the governing Council of Earth’s non-human species can’t get away from PowerPoint.

[DaryndaJones]: We were talking earlier about voice and the wide range that exists in the paranormal world. Your voice in this story is dark and edgy and I just loved it. Did you aim for such an edgy style or is it something that comes naturally to you?

[TamaraHogan]: It’s gotta come naturally, because I certainly wasn’t conscious of it while I was writing. TASTE ME was my first manuscript, and I was so busy getting up the learning curve on other aspects of craft that frankly I didn’t even think about voice. While I majored in English/Creative writing in college, it took me a loooong time to find the guts to actually put pen to paper and write a novel —so much time that the very technology used to write novels made a quantum leap while I dithered, hemmed and hawed. In my real life, I have a distinct appreciation for dark and twisted, I’m pretty snarky, and yeah, I swear like a sailor. I’m not surprised that some of this shows up in my work.

[DaryndaJones]: Okay, when I read the name of Scarlett’s band, Scarlett’s Web, I fell in love. That is the coolest name ever. Where did you come up with that? It’s brilliant! (And just for the record, I now want to form a rock band, but sadly Darynda’s Web just doesn’t have the same feel.)

[TamaraHogan]: One of the first things that came to me about Scarlett, even before her name, was the color of her hair. The jump from Scarlett’s hair color to her given name was a no-brainer. In terms of the band name, and the fact that Scarlett ensnares listeners with her siren’s voice, it seemed apt — and yeah, maybe a little subversive —to base the band’s name on the children’s book “Charlotte’s Web.” (Charlotte, Scarlett…close enough!)  There’s a real-world band called Suddenly, Tammy! which tickles my funny bone to no end. As an English geek, maybe it’s the punctuation I find so amusing.

[DaryndaJones]: Do you have any favorite authors who have inspired you on your journey?

[TamaraHogan]: Yes, SO many. It’s amazing the amount of craft and technique you can absorb while reading others’ books, if you have the training to recognize craft when you see it. I can read a scene, feel the tears streaking down my face, and very quickly know the answer to the question, “How did she make me cry?” without hardly being aware of having analyzed it. Early Anne Rice was a huge influence on me; her “Interview With the Vampire” was the first paranormal I remember reading, and I fell in love with the world. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon,” a retelling of the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the female characters, taught me that the history we learn is entirely dependent upon who gets to write it—the winners, right? I love Anne Stuart, whose specialty is writing morally ambiguous—or, as she once told me, “absolutely certifiable”—heroes. A relatively recent addition to my auto-buy list is Nalini Singh, whose Psy/Changeling and Guild Hunters series feature fascinating characters set in wholly unique paranormal worlds. Lastly…NORA. ‘Nuff said.

Nora and Tammy
Nalini and Tammy

Nalini and Tammy

[DaryndaJones]: And it’s time for the million-dollar question. Where did you get the idea for this story? It’s just so sexy and incredible, I’d love to know more about your thought process.

[TamaraHogan]: I was in the pit at a rock show, watching a band whose name you’d probably all recognize, and could not drag my eyes away from the drummer. His behavior was just so cheerfully, unapologetically debauched. I remember thinking, “Damn, he must be half incubus.” Something went **click** and I started writing the next morning. TASTE ME’s Tomas Diego is inspired by this drummer.

[DaryndaJones]: Okay, one more question, then I’ll leave you alone and let our readers ask their own questions. What is next on your publishing journey?

[TamaraHogan]: I just typed THE END on TASTE ME’s follow-up, CHASE ME—proving to myself that the first book wasn’t just an epic fluke. I’m starting research on the third book in the Underbelly Chronicles series, TEMPT ME. Readers can catch me at the Romantic Times convention in LA in April, and at RWA National (NYC, baby!) in June, where my fellow Rubies and I will present a panel workshop called “The Road to Novel Completion: Potholes, Pit-Stops and Poppy Fields, Oh My!” Follow the yellow brick road as we share the tips and techniques that help us dodge life’s flying monkeys and finish that darned novel.

[DaryndaJones]: And there you have it, dear readers. Do you have any questions for Tamara? She has a pretty incredible Golden Heart story that I’d bet she could be coaxed into telling, but just be ready to turn green with envy. This girl’s got talent to spare!

[TamaraHogan]: Please, ask away – and thanks so much, Darynda. Can I tell you, yet one more time, just how much I loved FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT?  😉

As an added treat, two randomly selected commenters will receive a free copy of TASTE ME from Sourcebooks Casablanca! (U.S. and Canada only, please.) Comment at or before 11:59:59 p.m. tonight to have a chance to win!

[Admin]: <<Council_Net chat is now open for questions…>>

69 responses to “Ruby Release Spotlight: Tamara Hogan & Taste Me”

  1. I can’t wait to read Taste Me! I love mythology (although I must admit, I prefer the Norse version to the Roman and Greek. Currently delving into Celtic mythology which ascends to a level all its own.)

    So I’ll take Darynda’s challenge and request a recounting of your GH story. I promise not to be green–at least not before the 17th when it’s legal for everyone!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Hi Gwynlyn! You’ll likely be horrified that, in the world I’ve created, distinctions of origin (Norse, Celtic, Greek, Roman)…are pretty much tossed right out the window. 😉

      Rather than recount my entire GH story here in nauseating detail, I’ll direct you to the Ruby blog entry I wrote on the topic: its title, Writing Through Fear, should give you the gist. The short version is that I wrote this manuscript, my first, as a challenge to myself, as training wheels on a bicycle, as the start to the journey of getting over some paralyzing performance anxiety I experienced as a young writer. (I earned a degree in Eglish/Creative writing, got scared, and …bailed.) I expected to make my mistakes in anonymity, take some falls, pick myself up, and try again. Get a few manuscripts under my belt. Instead the manuscript finalled in the GH, the Daphne, and sold to Sourcebooks as part of a three book deal.

      Anonymity Road was supposed to be…longer!

    • Hey Gwyn!!! Thanks so much for stopping by. You are going to love this book. I wondered if I used the wrong word with “mythology”. I should probably have used something like paranormal or supernatural mythology to separate it from Greek mythology. But I do so love the way Tammy meshed everything so seamlessly.

  2. Shoshana Brown says:

    Happy release day, Tammy! I’ve been (impatiently) waiting for Taste Me to come out ever since I read the excerpt on your website.

  3. Happy release day, Tammy! I’m looking forward to receiving my copy from that trusty Book Depository. It sounds *brilliant*. Hooray to all at Sourcebooks for coming up with that arresting title.

    I have a publishing/process question. Can you tell us a little more about what happens between the time you sign the contract and the day your book is released?

    (Waving at Darynda — fabulous interview!)

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks, Vanessa! I hope you enjoy the book.

      Your question about the publishing process is making me giggle; I was already thinking that Darynda should simply have called this blog posting “Tammy Writes Long – As Always.” For me, 18 months passed between signing the Sourcebooks contract and TASTE ME’s release day, months of downtime balanced with spikes in frantic activity. First up was developmental edits, with my editor Deb Werksman providing feedback on the manuscript in context with their early analysis on how the book would be marketed. I’d written and pitched the manuscript as a paranormal romantic suspense with a space opera twist, and Sourcebooks was thinking urban fantasy romance. Regardless, my first challenge was cutting over 30K words from the manuscript. This was labor-intensive, but actually easier than it sounds because I’d made the classic paranormal newbie writer’s mistake of introducing too many POV characters to tell a big, sprawling story. I had to pull the focus in to the ROMANCE. Hero, heroine and villain. First cut – if the scene wasn’t written from the hero’s, heroine’s, or villian’s POV, chuck it. Deb’s feedback to me was high-level – no line-edits, no wordsmithing, more like, “You really lost an opportunity to create a connection between Lukas and Scarlett immediately after the concert scene…” (Tammy flips pages to concert scene. Yup. She’s right.) I loved her high level approach; my agent doesn’t edit, either. Developmental edits took one pass, two months’ turnaround. After that, a couple month break, then page-proofing and copy-editing (Sourcebooks uses an online approach). In parallel with this were cover and title discussions – Deb and I agreed on the scene we wanted to be on the book’s cover, discussed the layout, which, in the final product, ended up being pretty darned close – though I KNOW Lukas is wearing a shirt in this scene. wherever did it go?! About four to five months before release, the cover gets finalized, and posted to various websites. Punch up my own website, make sure you can describe your book and series in various lengths, finalize the bio which you will copy and paste onto every blog you write for the next year. 🙂 Sourcebooks has a fabulous publicist who helped coordinate my blog tour, will send out books to drawing winners, and so on. The blog tour starts today.

      Okay, that was probably a lot more than anyone wanted to know. Yes, TAMMY WRITES LONG. But…the traditional publishing process can take a long time. I started writing this manuscript in 2006/2007. It finaled in the GH in early 2009, sold later in 2009. Book in hand March 2011, and eligible for the 2012 RITAs.

      • Hey, Tammy! Thanks for satisfying my curiosity about the behind-the-scenes stuff. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait in this business! I’m clicking my heels for the 2012 RITAs.

    • Waving back atcha, Vanessa!!! Thanks so much for stopping by!

      And thanks Tammy for sharing your experience. I know our readers will love to hear about what happens after the sale.

  4. Oh, wow. That book sounds intriguing. I think I’ve found another download for my Nook.

    Happy release day.

  5. Rita Henuber says:

    SO excited for you. Reading the post the photos came into view and I thought, who is that woman with Tammy? Ha! Just the Nora. To me, you are already more famous than she.
    Wishes for many, many sales

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      “Just the Nora.” **snerk** Rita, crack me up.

      The experience of getting that picture was such a thrill for me. Nora’s assistant, the person who was taking pictures, had some problems with my camera, which gave me a chance to have a short conversation with Nora. I thanked her for providing me with many hours of enjoyment, and for teaching me about dialogue tagging and pace.

      Both Nora and Nalini have such intriguing voices.

    • Right there with ya, Rita! 😉

  6. What a great story, Tammy! And WOW! I loved the GH story–writing through fear and this:Tammy said >>>>that the darkest corners of my private imagination would soon be very, very public. Judged. Exposed.

    That’s such an honest statement. And so true. When others read our work, this is it–we’re exposed. You let readers into a place that’s privately you. So well put!

    Can’t wait to read your book–it sounds fantastic! Congrats on your release! Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Personal exposure is definitely my bugaboo, Marian. I think I could handle it better if I, as the author, could simply write the book, send it out into the world, and then withdraw back into my writing cave. But the author promotion expectations are so much different now than they were when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I can’t stay in my cave.

    • I love that too, Marian!

      And I love that Tammy was worried her first book was a fluke. When you read it, you will understand. Her writing is awesome. Dark, sensual and fun. There is nothing fluke-ish about it. But trust me when I say I can relate. I thought the exact same thing with my first release. When I got that second one finished and most thought it better than the first, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

      I cannot wait for Chase Me!!!

  7. Elisa Beatty says:

    I was so excited when my pre-ordered copy of TASTE ME (the very first book I pre-ordered EVER) arrived on Friday! Despite an insanely busy weekend, i grabbed the book up every chance I got, and am about 3/4 through now.

    What a gripping read! And what a fascinating villain!!!!! I’m dying to find out how it all ends….

    You mentioned above that the idea first came to you while watching a drummer….it’s clear in the book that you know A LOT about the music scene, and what performers have to go through. Is any of that from personal experience (other than as an audience member)? Do you play music?

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Elisa, I’m so glad that you find Stephen fascinating – because I think it’s clear to those reading the book that I do, too. It was important to me that he be three-dimensional.

      Alas, my personal performance experience is limited to high school band and choir, musical theatre and karaoke, but having lived in and around Minneapolis since the early 80’s, I know a few musicians, and feel fortunate to have been immersed in a vibrant live music scene as a concert-goer for simply ages.

      Aw man, the music I’ve seen. I saw U2 and Duran Duran–gawky, pasty kids–perform during their first American tours. Prince sweat on me while wearing nothing but a teeny-tiny black leather bikini – he smells fabulous. When you’re standing in the front row of the pit in a very small club, you see the sweat, the effort, the…touching that’s part and parcel of being in the public eye. I wanted my readers to see it, too.

    • Wow, what a great question, Elisa!

  8. liz talley says:

    Oh, happy day! (cue the gospel choir in the background)

    Congrats, Tammy! Can’t wait to get my paws on it even though I don’t even know what an incubus is. LOL. I do like mythology so I’m thinking I can hang with it.

    I’m so happy for you. The cover is great, the interview fun, and, well, what more is there to say?

    I’ve been looking for the book on the shelf, trying to get it early. Haven’t had luck, so I’m glad today is here. I’ll make a run later this week. Can’t wait!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Liz, it might be to your benefit that you don’t know too much about incubi – I twist the ‘known’ mythology as it is…

      My sister and I visited my grandma last weekend and I have to admit we walked into B & N to see if we could find my book on the shelf. No go. Online distributors seem to have gotten a week’s hop on the official release date, but maybe physical bookstores are holding to the laydown date a little more firmly? Your guess is as good as mine. 😉

    • LOL, Liz! I was floored when I found out what an incubus was. It gave me a whole new perspective on the band. hahaha

      • Liz and Darynda– I’m the same . . . incubus?? Hmm, should I google this? Nah, figure it’s best to get Tammy’s book! Especially with that twist. Sounds fun and the answer to our all our questions!

  9. As a frequent follower of this blog, I have to say I’m just thrilled for you! I remember back in the old days when it was still called Underbelly. It’s been great fun to follow the steps along your journey as you’ve shared them with us. May Taste Me be the first of many literary successes!!!!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Even though Sourcebooks changed the title of my book from UNDERBELLY to TASTE ME to better appeal to romance readers, I didn’t want to lose the original title entirely. I…just started referring to the series as The Underbelly Chronicles, figuring if someone at Sourcebooks didn’t like it, they’d ask me to stop. So far, they haven’t. 😉

      Miranda, thanks so much for being part of our community!

      • That’s awesome, Tammy! While I called mine the Grave Series, St. Martin’s had their own ideas. They called it the Charley Davidson series and I was like, “Longer, but okay.” hahaha

    • I love what Underbelly is in the book, Miranda. It’s just so perfect!

  10. Hi Tammy!

    So excited for you! I can’t wait to get your book. I love the cover and it sounds so tantalizing. So you go to crazy rock concerts and hang out in the “pit”? Wow – I’m so old. You go girl!

    Darynda – great interview. You brought out so many great aspects of Tammy and her writing.

    Here’s to fabulous sales to both of you!

  11. Diana Layne says:

    Congrats, Tammy! So happy for you that your release day is finally here!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks, Diana!! Doesn’t it seem like both ages ago and just yesterday that we all were named 2009 Golden Heart finalists? It was my very great pleasure to thank every one of the Rubies for having my back in the Acknowledgements section of the book. What an extraordinary group of women you are.

    • Hey Diana! Wonderful to see you!

  12. kelly fitzpatrick says:

    Great interview, ladies. Looooooove the cover. Can’t wait to read it.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks, Kelly! One thing I like about the cover is that, coincidentally, it has all of my favorite colors on it! Black, purple, fuchsia… and most importantly, I’m happy with Scarlett’s cover tattoo! (She doesn’t actually have one in the book. Giving her one for the cover was a marketing decision.)

    • Thank you so much, Kelly!

  13. Another Ruby book I’ve been waiting for. I can’t wait to get my copy and dive in. You’re title is going to stop people in their search and the blurb will have them carrying the book him.

    Congrats, girl. Enjoy the high.

    Great interview, ladies.

  14. Amanda Brice says:

    Happy release day, Tamara! I can’t wait to get my copy.

    Great interview, Darynda!

  15. Vivi Andrews says:

    Congrats on the release day, Tammy! I’ll be running to the bookstore for this baby today. An incubus with synesthesia, a rockstar siren, technology & mythology… yeah, you’ve got my number.

    Enjoy your day and wishing you many sales!

  16. Tammy, congrats! I’m super excited to get this one and see what you’ve done to the world. 😉 Poor Minnesota!

    As an aside, though I’ve gotten used to TASTE ME, I always loved “The Underbelly” as a name, but then I’m not a romance-first reader. I liked the grittiness of it. Will “Underbelly” be printed on the final cover? Like, Book 1 of The Underbelly Chronicles?

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Unfortunately no, the Underbelly Chronicles series badging isn’t on the book cover. I have high hopes it shows up on Book Two, CHASE ME. But in the meantime, I see that it’s being picked up in some advertising and on some blogs.

  17. And Underbelly is just such a cool place, Jamie. You’ll love it. It’s gritty and dark and…underbelly-y. 🙂

  18. Shea Berkley says:

    Congraulations on the release day, Tammy! (blowing confetti at you)

    I love, love, love that you have your aliens crash in Minnesota! I’ve always wondered about that accent, eh?

    I love dark stories. The interview has me itching to get my hands on a copy of Taste Me. Awesome job, you two! (raise my cola glass) Here’s to healthy sales and a long career for you.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks, Shea, eh!

      Speaking of dark…one of the earliest exploratory scenes I wrote for the series is a journal entry written by one of the crash survivors, lamenting the fact that the ground was frozen so solidly that they couldn’t bury their dead.

  19. Coingratulations, Tami! Can’t wait to get my copy at the MFW and hear what you have to say about your journey (its journey?). So looking forward to reading it

  20. Tamara Hogan says:

    The two randomly-selected commenters receiving a free copy of TASTE ME courtesy of Sourcebooks Casablanca are:

    Arlene and Marian Pearson Stevens!

  21. Thank you Tammy and Rubies! Thrilled to be selected for your book! Can’t wait!

  22. […] Release day! Tammy’s interviewed by pal and fellow debut author Darynda Jones at the Ruby Slippered […]


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